More Static on Channel One

NEA joins several states in rejecting news program

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Whittle Communications' controversial Channel One television news program received yet another blow in July when delegates to the National Education Association's annual convention in Washington, D.C., voted to oppose the program. In a voice vote, a majority of the 8,500 delegates approved a statement that criticized the show because it “commercializes the educational process.”

A spokesman for Whittle said that the union's opposition would not deter plans to have the program up and running in 2,000 schools by next March. Schools that sign up for the show will receive a satellite dish, a VCR, and color video monitors. The daily program will include two minutes of paid advertising.

Officials from Channel One were on hand during the NEA's five-day convention to show delegates a sample program and to ask them to fill out an opinion survey. According to Scott Widmeyer of the Gallagher-Widmeyer Group, a public relations firm hired by Whittle to promote Channel One, more than 400 delegates responded to the survey, and two-thirds of them felt that the program would be “an effective way to inform and interest students in current events” and that “the benefits of the program would outweigh the fact that it includes two minutes of commercials.”

Although 63.5 percent of the respondents felt that the NEA should take “a clear public position on Channel One,” fewer than 10 percent of those said the NEA should vote to oppose the program. “A groundswell of support is building out there,” Widmeyer said.

Education officials in California, however, have already made up their minds about the program. California public schools have been advised that Channel One's two minutes of advertising cannot be considered “instructional time,” and therefore schools would risk losing public funding were they to air the program.

At least eight other states—Alabama, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington, and Wyoming—have issued or are considering advisories to school districts, either telling or urging them not to sign up for Channel One.

Vol. 01, Issue 01, Page 27

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